By COLLEEN MCCARTHY
The state Senate passed a bill this week that would change the way many school districts in Mississippi appoint a superintendent.
Superintendents in Mississippi are currently either elected by voters in the community or appointed by the school board following a search and interview process. Senate Bill 2313 will eliminate the election option by stating all superintendents will be appointed by the school board by 2016.
In addition, any superintendent elected during the Nov. 2011 general election will not be elected again after their term, but will be subject to appointment. The community could choose to continue elections, but it would require a petition of 20 percent of registered voters by January 2015, followed by a voter-approved referendum.
Senate Bill 2313 passed with a vote of 43 to nine and was passed to the state House of Representatives.
Only 146 out of approximately 14,500 school districts in the country elect superintendents, and Mississippi represents 64 of those districts. Mississippi, Alabama and Florida are the only states which elect superintendents.
While city school districts already appoint their superintendents, county school districts, like Oktibbeha County School District, elect their superintendents.
The Parents’ Campaign, an organization that promotes public education through parent advocacy in Mississippi, encouraged the passing of the bill because the election of a superintendent can reduce the number of potential candidates significantly, especially in rural areas.
“(Electing a superintendent) narrows the pool of candidates eligible for the superintendent’s position and, in many cases, prevents a school district from recruiting the best candidate for an extremely important job,” Parents’ Campaign Executive Director Nancy Loome said.
A candidate must live within the school district at the time of the election, so it is not uncommon for a candidate to run unopposed, giving a district no choice. Nearly one-third of elected superintendents ran unopposed in 2007.
An elected superintendent cannot be fired by the school board, so a district cannot hold him or her accountable until the next election.
The Mississippi Board of Education also supported the bill, listing it as one of its legislative priorities for 2012.